Fewer people wearing seat belts in Ohio; Why some believe new legislation could be a solution

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Everyone knows the nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign, but it appears Ohioans might not be inspired by the push. According to officials, Ohio’s seat belt usage rate is far below the national average.

“Ohio’s compliance rate has actually gone down for voluntary compliance for seat belt usage,” said Lt. Col. Chuck Linek with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

That’s why area officials focused on getting more drivers to wear their safety belts during Monday’s campaign kickoff. Jennifer Barerra Mendoza was one of two Princeton High School students to sign a safe driving pledge during a news conference.

“I’ve been telling my friends, ‘Hey I’m doing this campaign ‘Click It Or Ticket’, spreading the word, because not many people search up statistics on crashes,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said signing the pledge is personal to her after she was in a car crash as a child.

“This crash was years ago, when I was in elementary school, so that really affected my decisions every time I go into a car and put on a seat belt,” she said.

She said she was thankfully wearing her seat belt at the time. As was Linek when he got recently got into a crash.

“On my way to work, someone pulled out in front of me. I hit them about 45 miles an hour, (I) had virtually no time to break,” he said. “I had my seat belt on, and I came away unharmed. It’s the simplest thing to do to help prevent injuries and save lives.”

Linek said crash data from 2023 backs up those claims.

“60% out of all the fatals we had last year, those people were not buckled,” he said.

Since January, there have been more than 2,200 crashes in Hamilton County where drivers were not wearing a seat belt. Currently, police cannot pull you over for not buckling up. Right now, they must pull drivers over for another violation before writing a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.

A newly introduced bill aims to change that and make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense. Linek said he believes that could be part of the solution.

“We will continue to work with our legislators and hope that that happens because we know, statistics and data show throughout the country that if there’s a primary seat belt law, the compliance rate goes up,” he said.

The bill still needs a co-sponsor, so it may be some time before this proposal can be put into action.

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